July 26, 2014
Today I was reminded, once again, that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. For years, I had been looking at my misfortune as a negative. It took the innocent perspective of a child to make me see it differently.
I have had 5 children, and without exception, each of them came perilously close to death when they were very young. My first pregnancy, I carried twins, a boy and a girl. I delivered at 26 weeks, a full 3 months before full term. My daughter Miss J, weighed 1 pound 14 ounces and my son Pookie, weighed in at 1 pound 10 ounces. Both were severely underdeveloped, obviously, and both were on respirators for approximately 2 months.
At 20 years old, I was too naive to realize that the doctors may not be able to save them. However, they survived. In fact, they thrived. I was able to bring them home when they were 3 months old and weighing a whopping 4 pounds apiece. One, two brushes with death.
My second pregnancy was just as difficult, I was 22. For some reason, my body was rejecting my pregnancy. I had frequent kidney infections prior to and throughout my pregnancy. My doctors surmised that the infections were triggering pre-term labor. I was only 3 months along when labor began.
Throughout the next 6 months, it was touch and go. I was put on bed rest, fetal monitors and all sorts of medication to stop the labor. When I finally delivered, thankfully at 9 months, my son was in distress and had a traumatic delivery. He had difficulty breathing once he was born but soon pulled through.
At 22 years old, I knew babies could die, but not mine. My son Puff, was home from the hospital in just a couple of days, happy and healthy. Third brush with death.
When I was 23, my oldest, my daughter Miss J, my fighter, my survivor, passed away from something unrelated to her premature birth. There it was. A child dies before her parents, it really happens. Three children, three brushes with death, one death. I did not like those numbers.
I subsequently went on to have two more pregnancies, both daughters. I was 27 when I delivered my next daughter, Muffin. Smooth sailing all the way. Whew! Then I became pregnant one last time. This pregnancy was by far the worst. Not only did I experience pre-term labor, I was on complete bed rest, I had to monitor my contractions twice a day. I was averaging 12 to 15 contractions in a 45 minute period on a daily basis.
At 27 years old, I was far from naive and I knew babies died, often. I was a nervous wreck, to say the least. Fortunately, my daughter Mimi, was born right on time, strong, happy and healthy. Fourth brush with death.
Finally, Muffin, my daughter who had never given me a minute’s worth of trouble in my womb, decided to become adventurous. When she was about 3 years old, her and Mimi pulled quite a stunt.
Late one night, I heard a noise in the kitchen. I got up to investigate. This is what I found: a dining room chair pulled up to the counter, a cup with a red ring of Kool-Aid and something gritty at the bottom, and several empty packets of Alka Seltzer. Earlier in the day, I had taken Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, and put the opened box up in the medicine cabinet in the kitchen, far away from little fingers, or so I thought.
By the time I rushed Muffin and Mimi to the hospital, the aspirin level in Mimi’s bloodstream was negligible. However, the aspirin level in Muffin’s bloodstream was at lethal levels. She was strapped onto a board, a tube shoved down her throat, and liquid charcoal poured into her stomach to neutralize the effects of the aspirin. The three of us spent the better part of that night and the next day trying to recover. Muffin survived. Fifth brush with death.
All of my children are now grown. However, as they were growing up, I had become somewhat bitter. I would tell them stories of their brushes with death and bemoan my loss. I was a bit of a downer, to say the least. My daughters, God bless them, were always so patient with me. They would listen intently and nod with little somber faces at all the appropriate places in the stories. Until one day, Muffin said something so profound, it literally changed my life forever.
I was telling my children, yet again, my tale of woe when Muffin, age 8 or 9, stopped me and said, “Mom, you know, you are so lucky!”
“What? Lucky? How do you figure, Muffin?” I countered.
“All five of your children were close to death, and you only lost one.”
Wow. Just let that sink in. Out of the mouth of babes…
That was 12, 13 years ago and it remains one of the most pivotal moments in my life. I began to see things a little differently. No longer did I see one death and four almost deaths. Rather, I began to see how very lucky I was. I began to see things differently, and these things, they began to change.
I would like to believe that I became a little less bitter that day, a little less sad. I was 36 years old and far removed from my 20 year-old, naive self. I had been living my life in a fog. Now, I began to see the rays of sunlight peeking through. I was lucky. I am lucky. And all it took was for me to look at life through the eyes of a child. When you change the way you look at things…Peace, ~v.